Kurios – Playground


One aspect of steampunk that I think we can all agree on is that it’s fun in so many ways. We get to play and let our imaginations run wild. We dress up in our finery, laugh and dance, enjoy good food and conversation, and are grandly entertained with art and music.

Recently, the circus came to town in the Pacific Northwest, Cirque du Soleil, that is, with their 35th production in the last 30 years, the steampunk themed Kurios. The show celebrates the individual and creativity which arose in the latter half of the nineteenth century by delving into the Cabinet of Curiosities of the Seeker.


I had a chance to see the show and interview some of the people involved in the production. And is it fun! The set design by Stéphane Roy and the costumes by Philippe Guillotel are wonderfully creative and imaginative, whimsical and technological at the same time. The music by Raphaël Beau, and sung by Eirini Tornesaki is energetic and uplifting. Kurios publicist Amelie Robitaille says there are times when she’s working in her office and needs a boost, she’ll go watch the opening act of the show, always coming away a bit more lively.

The show, both as a circus and as a steampunk story, is vastly entertaining. That opening act which Amelie mentioned has so much activity going on that it’s hard to only watch any one thing, and everywhere one looks there’s something interesting to see. The items on this cabinet of curiosities fantasy world come alive and show us the “What if…” an “What could be…” in our Future that Never Was.

16941_274kurios_quebec-9204_smallPhoto: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

There are gymnasts, jugglers, contortionists, acrobats, and more. One of the newest additions to Cirque is a new act and technology, the Acro Net. It’s a 40′ x 40′ safety net stretched tight enough to act like a giant trampoline. But this isn’t like any trampoline we played on as kids – this net has the power to send the performers 40 feet into the air.

During an afternoon rehearsal, I had a chance to talk with one of the Acro Net performers, Ryan Shinji Murray, who is also part of our steampunk community, about his involvement with the show.

15745__smallPhoto: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

Ryan says he started gymnastics as a kid, using a trampoline and getting involved in other acrobatic sports. It wasn’t until college, though, that he thought it would be more interesting and more fun to try out for the circus. He auditioned with Cirque, which only gets one into their database, not necessarily onto a show, and then worked with a smaller circus until he got the call about Kurios auditions.

After two years of planning, the show’s production team was ready to bring in the artists and Ryan was involved right from the beginning as part of the Acro Net team. He says the set and costume design is quite a departure from previous shows and really make Kurios stand out with a signature look.

15665-smallPhoto: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

From a steampunk perspective, Ryan was exposed to movies like Wild Wild West with Will Smith, but also saw steampunk expressions up close at anime and other cosplay events where the steampunk outfits had such a fine attention to detail. While in San Francisco, he had a chance to attend the Edwardian Ball and expand his own steampunk wardrobe.

Ryan says of wearing his Kurios outfits that there is a real presence that comes with it, and even a change in how he acts and performs. “I feel fancy. Like we are all at a fancy party every night,” he commented. While those outfits are created by others, it’s a real collaboration between the artists and the choreographers to determine what is possible and what can be done to bring a vision to life, including impromptu variations like his ‘fishy wobble’ during the Acro Net act.

15591-smallPhoto: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

From a “Playground” point of view, Ryan says fun is the whole goal for himself and for the audience in every performance. He enjoys not only what he does as a job but truly enjoys the happiness his work brings to the spectators at each show.

Later, I also talked with David Greatrex, also a fellow steampunk and the head of automation for Kurios, responsible for all of the moving parts of the show – props, cables, and the Acro Net.

In talking about the steampunk theme, David felt that while people have an idea in their own minds about what steampunk means to them, the show is not a preconceived notion of what a time line is or how things should work but rather is Circue’s vision of what steampunk is, just like how each individual steampunk expresses what steampunk is for them and how they enjoy it.

15917__CM22746_smallPhoto: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

David was involved with Cirque’s show, Totem, partly because it had a giant mechanical scorpion’s tail, which he says was great fun to play with. (I’m sure he meant “work” with, in a serious professional capacity. But, yeah, wouldn’t it be fun to have a job controlling a giant mechanical prop?)

He commented about how sometimes the visuals and the special effects might not logically or realistically go together, but in this day of Hollywood, it all comes together to create a fun and entertaining presentation to the audience.

Aside from the fun of his job running the show’s hardware, David also enjoys seeing the crowds come in, with a buzz of excitement and anticipation, especially when fellow steampunks come en masse to the show, dressed in their finery.

17071_1449kurios_quebec-9740_smallPhoto: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

Kurios is a very fun and engaging show. It was easy enough for me to suspend my disbelief for an afternoon, dressed in my steampunk outfit, being carried off for awhile watching a show from our steampunk world.

If you have the opportunity, put on your steampunk finest and catch a performance of Kurios. Failing that, at least buy the CD and enjoy the energy of the music.


Head over to the website for show and ticket information, and to see which character you are in the Cabinet of Curiosities.


Kurios is in Seattle through the end of March, then

Calgary, Alberta opening April 9, 2015

Denver, Colorado opening June 11, 2015

then, Chicago, Illinois,

Costa Mesa, California,

Los Angeles, California.


For more information and interviews, check out these links

DailyXtra on Youtube

Amelie Robitaille Cirque de Soliel Interview

Nick Pitera Behind the Scenes Tour

Press release


Published in: on February 22, 2015 at 1:40 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Kurios – Playground […]

  2. […] du Soleil show, the steampunk themed Kurios, I was not disappointed at all in that learning aspect. Previously, I mentioned how the show is entertaining and just plain fun, but it is also quite educational as […]

  3. […] montage. There’s several posts as part of Steampunk Hands Around the World 2015 – here, here, and […]

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